The third Monday in January, also known as ‘Blue Monday,’ is considered to be the saddest day of the year, as people contend with frigid weather and higher-than-normal credit cards bills from the holiday season.
Employers can use this occasion to check in with employees and plan their mental-health strategies for the year, says Janet Candido, principal and founder of Candido Consulting Group Inc., adding it’s a great time to remind staff of the well-being support tools available to them, such as employee assistance programs.
Employers can also host lunch-and-learn sessions on stress management and coping with anxiety or financial pressures, she says. And for employers with retirement savings or pension plans, their providers will often send a financial expert, at no additional cost, to speak to employees.
The Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan is one employer taking this opportunity to remind employees about its EAP and the resources available through the platform. Blue Monday is also a good time to remind employees that their benefits maximums reset in January, says Anna MacDonald, human resources director at the ASEBP.
The organization constantly aims to normalize taking mental-health days and ingraining the practice within the company’s culture. The process requires leadership training, she says, noting it’s imperative that leaders are able to have those conversations with their team members, especially as employees contend with rising inflation and other financial stressors.
The ASEPB is also focusing on providing its management team with training in diversity, equity and inclusion. “We know that inclusive workplaces create wellness for employees,” says MacDonald. “It goes back to that concept of creating a safe space for people to be open with their leaders.”
Indeed, the organization is hosting its holiday party in February to appeal to all employees, in recognition that not everyone celebrates Christmas. It also introduced a floating holiday that employees can use to observe days of personal significance or religious holidays, plus another day to volunteer at an organization of their choosing. “There are . . . little things you can do to feed into wellness for employees,” says MacDonald, noting these small steps meant a lot to employees.
When employers focus on mental health and well-being in the workplace, it tells staff their company is a safe place where they can talk openly about their issues and get the supports they need, says Candido, noting employees are less likely to leave their employer when they feel supported and respected.
Although Blue Monday is a great starting point for employers to assess the well-being of their workers, it isn’t an overnight process, she cautions. “This is the beginning of an intervention that normalizes mental health in the workplace and employers will start to see the impact of their steps moving forward.”
Similarly, MacDonald says employers have a year-round responsibility to support employee mental health. “I think that really starts with creating a culture [around a] psychologically healthy workplace, . . . especially around leadership.”